LONDON – US President Barack Obama caught the imagination of the world when he talked recently of a new “Sputnik moment.” He outlined a bold plan for improving education, infrastructure, and technology, and vividly compared the resolve required to put a man on the moon to the determination needed to restore growth to the US economy.
BRUSSELS – Various forms of common “European bonds”, more precisely eurobonds, have been proposed recently as a way out of the current euro crisis, with proponents stressing the promise of lower borrowing costs. But this seems mostly to be wishful thinking.
GENEVA – Switzerland ’s direct democracy allows citizens who have gathered enough petition signatures to challenge government policies and laws in nationwide referenda. After a spate of AIDS deaths during the 1980’s, the Swiss came face to face with a problem that has destroyed millions of lives in the United States, Russia, Latin America, the European Union, southern Asia, and other regions. Intravenous drug users – especially heroin addicts – had turned public spaces in Zurich and other Swiss cities and towns into needle parks. AIDS proved itself to be blind to affluence.
DAKAR – China’s sacred text is not a holy book like the Torah, the Bible, or the Koran. Instead, it is The Art of War by Sun-Tzu. Sun’s core belief is that the “ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting.”
BERKELEY – As Stephen Cohen, with whom I wrote The End of Influence: What Happens When Other Countries Have the Money, likes to say, economies do not evolve; they are, rather, intelligently designed. He also likes to say that, though there is an intelligence behind their design, this does not mean that the design is in any sense wise.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Progress is being made against many types of cancer, with more patients surviving longer, thanks to research on two fronts: improved methods for earlier detection, and development of therapies that are more effective and less toxic. Indeed, it is estimated that there are now more than 10 million cancer survivors in the United States alone, and this number has been steadily increasing. Similar numbers, in proportion to population sizes, are found in other developed countries.
LONDON – In 1995, I published a book called The World After Communism. Today, I wonder whether there will be a world after capitalism. That question is not prompted by the worst economic slump since the 1930’s. Capitalism has always had crises, and will go on having them.
NEW HAVEN – We are in the midst of a boom in popular economics: books, articles, blogs, public lectures, all followed closely by the general public. I recently participated in a panel discussion of this phenomenon at the American Economic Association annual meeting in Denver. An apparent paradox emerged from the discussion: the boom in popular economics comes at a time when the general public seems to have lost faith in professional economists, because almost all of us failed to predict, or even warn of, the current economic crisis, the biggest since the Great Depression.
NEW DELHI – The key role of emerging and developing countries – including India, China, and Brazil – in sustaining world economic growth was brought into sharp focus during the recent global crisis, and has been well documented. This trend is likely to continue in 2011 and beyond.
LONDON – Last week, the former dictator General Jorge Videla was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role in Argentina’s “dirty war” of the 1970’s, including the torture and execution of unarmed prisoners. These offenses were perpetrated decades ago. What can such a verdict mean so many years after the restoration of democracy in Argentina?